2) What do you see as the central theme of this story? Remember: a theme is not simply a subject like “love”. It is a fuller expression of what an author is trying to suggest about this subject. Write a paragraph explaining your interpretation of this story’s theme.
3) Identify three important conflicts present in the story. Explain what exactly is causing the problem—and whether they are internal or external in nature. Finally, explain which of these conflicts seems to the central problem.
5) Of what significance is the setting of this story in blitzed London? Does the story have anything to say about the consequences of war? About the causes of war?
7)Address the following quotation in the story by explaining its context and overall significance to the story:
“Streaks of light came in through the closed shutters where they worked with the seriousness of creators—and destruction after all is a form of creation. A kind of imagination had seen this house as it had now become.”
8) Describe what happens in the resolution of the story. Why might Graham Greene have ended the story in this manner?
9) On the surface this is a story of action, suspense, and adventure. At a deeper level it is about delinquency, war, and the hidden forces which motivate our actions. Do you agree? Give reasons for your answer
11) Research a definition of the philosophy of nihilism. How might the Wormsley Common Gang’s actions in the story demonstrate a kind of nihilism?
2) We believe that the theme of the story is the destruction of society. We understood that Graham Greene wants to express how the individual is affected by the crises. The author talks about the aftermath of WW2 in his story, where he describes London’s situation after the German air raids. He outlines the difference between a city that has been bombarded with a “beautiful house” that has survived 200 years. When the author pronounces in the following simile, “the house stuck up like a jagged tooth”, he emphasizes the house survival by comparing it with something that though is not perfect, is steady. However, as the story goes on, he narrates the evil nature of man when the gang wants to “pull it down, destroy it”. Here the author portrays how destruction leads to more destruction, as the boys wanted to pull Old Misery’s house down, due to Britain destruction. Here the house is a symbol of hope and prosperity. Even after the blitz, his house stood there, practically not damaged. It is shown that even after very dark events, Britain could return to be what it was or even better. But Graham sent us a message by portraying the society loss of compassion. The gang is not able to see the good in society. They can’t understand that Old Misery has good intentions because their innocence has been taken from them. We can see in the following simile that came out of Trevor’s words, “We would be like worms, don’t you see, in an apple”. The author expresses how war damages people, in every single way. Trevor passes from being from a high social class to hanging out with kids from a low one. War damaged him from the inside in such a way, that he passed from being a well educated kid to being a monster. So we believe that the author wants to portray the effects of destruction, and that unfortunately is more destruction.
3) One conflict present in the story is based on which of the members will lead the whole gang. From one part, Blackie has ruled the gang for a long time and took the gang to incredible experiences and activities. However T with the passing of time had became the leader; the rest of the gang is just knowing him but they like him. This conflict is external nature since their is a dispute between the leadership of both Blackie and T. The second conflict present in the story is that T is from a higher class than the rest of the members of the gang. The words he used to describe things such as “beautiful” when they were talking about the house, pointed out that he had a higher education. T wants to be part of the gang so he starts doing things that were not common for him in his previous lifestyle. This is an internal nature conflict, as Trevor is struggling from having been of a well educated social class to a lower one. He is trying to understand that change in his life. Finally, The third and central problem in the story of Graham Greene is that the Wormsley Common gang are desiring to destroy the Old Misery’s House. T creates a whole plan to take the mission on. The whole group works hard to get what they want, so they they are plan everything. This is an external conflict as the whole gang is posing to do it.
5) The setting of the story is important because Old Misery’s House portrays the part of the war that survived the bombs. During WW2 London had been bombed and was defeated by all that happened all along during the war. But this house was the only thing that was standing. So the fact that the gang was destructing Old Misery’s House symbolizes the fact that they were destroying all the hope and faith that was left for them. The kids had established that no adults would rule them, only they were the ones who will rule. This suggest the author message about destroying everything, in order to be able to start over and create again.
7) Graham Greene spreads his message about creation coming from destruction. He narrates a story in order to express how power flows from an older generation to the younger one. He exposes a plot in which the younger generation has their innocence destroyed by the war, so he reveals how destruction can create something greater. He portrays how Old Misery’s house one can be the start of something new and better. He is convinced that their lives can improve as long as they have imagination. The author narrates how Trevor passed from living in a high social class, one in which his dad was a “former architect”, to a lower class, where his father ended being a “clerk”, in order to present a well educated kid whose knowledge has been passed from his father. He knows how a house is construct so he knows exactly how to pull it down. When he is giving orders to the gang he warned them “Don’t turn on the taps- we don’t want a flood- yet”. This quote shows his ability of using his knowledge for destruction. The author is emphasizing how London’s massacre is affecting the younger generation and encouraging them to destroy everything, in order to start over with a clean slate. The gang has the imaginative idea to pull the survival house down, altering London’s image, in order to come clean. Because, “destruction after all is a new form of creation”.
8) At the end of the story, the lorry driver tries to get his lorry to work but it seems to be stuck to something. When he finally is able to start the lorry, he hears a huge crashing sound and the shower of debris falling, which was Mr. Thomas’s house. The lorry driver hears Mr. Thomas and lets him out of the lou. After seeing the remains of the house, Mr. Thomas is devastated and can not believe the kids would do something like that, while the lorry driver is laughing and not showing any sympathy towards Mr. Thomas.
Graham Greene might have ended the story in this way to convey the message of how twisted society is and the destruction of the England’s past class structure. To start with, the war left as a consequence a society that does trust the other or care about the other, since it only created destruction and pain to the people. This is seen with the reaction of the lorry driver who laughs at Mr. Thomas’ tragedy. Also, there is destruction of the class structure, because Greene says that “the house had stood there with such dignity between the bomb-sites like a man with a top hat”, he is comparing the house to the wealthy and powerful classes, but with its destruction, the ones who had money are know the same as the rest, meaning that anyone can be able to prosper, not only the wealthy.
9) Yes, we agree with this statement. When you first read the story, it appears to be an innocent story of some kids who decide to destroy the house of a man, without any motive just for fun. But, once you analysing it the message and the point of view change. What seemed to be a story about rebellious kids, it became a story with a deeper message. Graham Greene is trying to demonstrate the consequences of the war on the future generations and on the class structure. To start with, the children in the gang act differently compared to Mr. Thomas. They don’t trust anyone and don’t seem to have any hope for the future, since they wanted to destroy Old Misery’s house rather than use their knowledge and creativity to construct a better city and society. They prefer to tear down the only house that survived the Blitz. Not only this but, the lorry driver’s reaction shows that people don’t have sympathy towards the others, since he doesn’t care about what happened. This can show how the war affected people in a terrible way, since they are not capable to see hope instead of destruction. Not only this but, the story can be seen as a symbol of the destruction of past class structures, After the war, everyone is living in the same state of poverty, causing the people of lower classes are able to prosper the same way as the people from a wealthier class. This can be seen in T’s life, since his father was once an architect but is a clerk, also when T and Blackie burn Old Misery’s money, since it is a symbol of how people are able to prosper due to the fact that no one is living in good conditions.
11) The philosophy of nihilism is the viewpoint that suggests the denial or lack of belief towards the reputedly meaningful aspects of life. This viewpoint can be seen represented in the actions of the Wormsley Common Gang because of their mentality towards the things that happen during their life. To begin with, when Old Misery gave the kids candy, instead of accepting it, they believed that Old Misery was trying to harm them. This can be considered nihilism since the kids were in denial that Old Misery was doing something nice for them.